Saturday, December 15, 2007 I did something a little different. I paddled the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The difference being, this trip requires and overnight stay. Fortunately, I have family on the island this week. Thank you Pat and Eileen, Pete and Jackie.
Sanibel from Winter Park is a 3 1/2 to 4 hour trip. I made great time, leaving at 8:10 and getting this picture at 12:25. A 3 mile long causeway joins Sanibel Island with the Florida mainland at Fort Myers. I have often launched from the causeway, and paddled across the open waters of San Carlos Bay into the Refuge. This day was too windy for that, so I drove onto Sanibel, and into the Refuge. The Refuge covers about one third of the island and is a phenomenal place to see wildlife. It is extremely popular as well, despite costing $11.00 to enter. $6 for the causeway toll, and 5 for vehicles on the 4 mile long Wildlife Drive. Bikers and hikers are a buck. There are two designated spots to launch paddle craft on the Drive, I put in at the second spot. Wildlife Drive runs atop a dike water is on both sides. On my left or south, I saw a flock of white pelicans as I drove. Paddling is only allowed on the north side.
The water flow was coming from the east as I put in so I paddled in that direction. A narrow mangrove lined water way, with occasional larger areas to explore. The more open water was choppy, inside the mangroves it was calm. I turned around when I could not proceed any further due to low water. Birds fed in the mud flats exposed by the low tide Birds pictured on this post are ibis, osprey, Great and snowy egret, tri colored heron, and rosette spoonbill.
But the coolest thing I saw is not pictured. I paddled out of the mangroves into Pine Island Sound. I hoped to see a manatee along the shore, or maybe a dolphin in the deeper water. I was returning to the channel from which I exited the Island, when the water ahead roiled. Dolphin, I thought. A dark shape rose out of the water, not a dolphin, but a huge ray, bursting all the way out of the water, "flying", fins spread out, landing with a great splash. First time I've seen that.